Biography of Aaron Burr (1756-1836)

Lawyer and American politician, third Vice President of the United States of America under the first administration of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1805). He/She was born on February 6, 1756, in Newark (New Jersey) and died on September 14, 1836 in Port Richmond (New York). Powerful by the political control that practiced in the State of New York, his political career was mediated by the hard struggle that began with the leader of the federalist party, Alexander Hamilton, to who ended up killing in a duel.

A member of a rich and prominent family of New Jersey, Aaron Burr was the grandson of the famous Protestant theologian Jonathan Edwars. He/She entered the College of New Jersey (today Princeton University), founded by his father, where he/she graduated in 1772 in right with the highest qualifications. Just pop the war of independence, Burr enlisted in the Continental Army of George Washington, which finished as aide-de-camp of general Montgomery and distinguished himself in the battle of Monmonth at the head of a brigade, which won him reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Before leaving the race due to health problems, Burr married a rich widow of surname Prévost, ten years older than him.

In 1782, Aaron Burr installed in New York his own law firm that soon managed to amass a respectable fortune and grab fame as an excellent Attorney, which allowed him to buy a luxury mansion in Richmond Hill which became the social Center and meeting of New York high society. In 1784, Burr was elected member of the House of representatives for New York and for the Democratic-Republican party, a position he/she repeated in 1788, for the following year, being promoted to the post of attorney general of the State Governor Georg Clinton. Appointed Senator for New York in 1791, Aaron Burr wove a dense network of unclear political alliances to overthrow its political rival, Philip Schuyler, father-in-law of the leading federalist Alexander Hamilton, which began a series of clashes that would end in tragedy.

Determined to get to the top of political power using any means to do so, legal or not, Aaron Burr could not get his Senate re-election in 1797, but a seat in the Assembly of New York, where continued feeding their thirst for power and ambition.

Aaron Burr Vice President with Thomas Jefferson

In the presidential election of 1800, Aaron Burr was presented, together with the candidate Thomas Jefferson, for the office of President. Thanks to the deployment of an election campaign well directed and, above all, better financed with his own money, Aaron Burr was the same number of votes than teammate elections Thomas Jefferson, both above the federal candidate, still President John Adams. Following prescribed by the Constitution, in such a situation the tiebreaker corresponded to the House of representatives, where each State delegation had the right to cast a vote for each representative. Alexander Hamilton did everything possible to make the compromisarios opt is finally by Jefferson, which failed until the thirty sixth vote, after more than half a year of heated disputes and clashes between Hamilton and Burr in the Congress.

Although Aaron Burr got, as a lesser evil, occupy the second highest judiciary in the country, the undemocratic resources used during the campaign, as for example the large amount of money that is spent on bribes, ended up lead to a very bad reputation as honest little politician, which resulted in another electoral defeat when, after his term as Vice Presidentwas present as a candidate for Governor of New York; on that occasion he/she was defeated badly as a result of the constant slurs and insults that Alexander Hamilton did not stop pouring against him. In a fit of anger, Aaron Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel in Weehawhen, on the banks of the Hudson River, on July 11, 1804, in which federalist leader fell mortally wounded.

Conspiracy Burr

Judged the incident by the press as a deliberate killing, since Alexander Hamilton had fired into the air, Aaron Burr abruptly fled to take refuge in Louisiana next to his friend general James Wilkinson. Aaron Burr was involved in the so-called Burr conspiracy. Relying on the imminent outbreak of war between the Crown of Spain and the United States, Aaron Burr persuaded Wilkinson to support him in his plan of forming an independent State between the valleys of the Mississippi River and Mexico, subtracting territory of the Crown of Spain and the United States, which was formerly dedicated to buy vast tracts of land on the banks of the Wachitas River. James Wilkinson did not dare to support such a project and denounced the maneuver to Thomas Jefferson, who immediately ordered the arrest of Burr. Accused and sentenced for the crime of treason, Aaron Burr was acquitted September 1, 1807, in a trial that lasted more than six months, thanks to the brilliant defense did his lawyer Harry Clay, who claimed the lack of evidence in the proceedings to prosecute his client.

With a political career finished, without any possibility of rehabilitation, Aaron Burr went to Europe, where he/she tried to collect funds and helps military of the own Napoleón Bonaparte for his political plans, which included the invasion of Florida. But none of his efforts gave positive result, it was forced to return in 1812 his country virtually ruined. Back in New York, Aaron Burr tried to practice law and opened an own office, effort again useless since he/she died almost in poverty and only. His only daughter and grandson had died a few years before.


HERNÁNDEZ Sánchez-Barba, M.: History of the United States of America: the bourgeois Republic to presidential power, Madrid: Marcial Pons, 1997.

JONES, M. A.: History of the United States (1607-1992), Madrid: Cátedra, 1995.

MALONE, D.: Jefferson and his time, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.